Tuesday, 10 April 2012

PUSHED FOR ANSWERS: Len Wanner

For the last few years Scotland's crime writers have been mercilessly stalked.

The perp, who dresses in natty leather shorts and handle-bar mustache, allegedly, is known as Len Wanner - a German Irishman with enough time on his hands to be a PhD student.

Pulp Pusher tried to speak to the man, but got nowhere. The few useable bits of that conversation are featured below, minus the stuff about Wanner's love of the Swiss-German television series Heidi.

PULP PUSHER: Why is such a nice, sensible fellow as yourself interested in all these crime-ridden minds?

LEN WANNER: Self-preservation. A few years ago I asked myself: “How will I survive the literary revolution?” That’s when I decided to talk to crime writers.

Tell us about your current university studies?

Why? So it’s my fault when people fall asleep on your website? Ah sure, I aim to please: Currently, I’m finishing a PhD on Scottish crime fiction at the University of Edinburgh, charting the genre to and through 30 writers at work today. You’re one of them, so it might be your turn to be nice and sensible.

And a little about your background?

Where to start? Most biographies are boring until you get past the childhood chapters, so I’ll skip mine. All you need to know is that charm school held me down while my hoor’s ear strapped an Irish accent into Lederhosen. You’re picturing that, aren’t you? Pervert.

I believe the title, THE CRIME INTERVIEWS, has a story attached?

Have you been reading my diary, again? Well, as you know, Ken Bruen gave me the title ‘Dead Sharp’ for the paperback edition, which I liked, until it got the book shelved in the fiction section, where it seems more dead than sharp.

‘The Crime Interviews’ is as direct as crime writing, which I like even better, and it’s as close to ‘The Paris Review Interviews’ as copyright allows, which I like best of all. Why? Because the purpose of this collection is to do for crime fiction what The Paris Review Interviews have done for literature at large.

Did your subjects in THE CRIME INTERVIEWS match your expectations of them?

Not until you ordered that piper to play during our interview. Thanks for that. Do you have any idea how much fun I had transcribing your gravelly answers to his dulcet tones? I’ve been reading your books to that Teuchter sound track ever since. Result.

Which writer surprised you the most?

Apart from the piping surprise? Well, I didn’t expect you to give me a tour of Ayr in a lightning blue lady’s race car, nor did I expect to interview you in a shrine to Robert Burns. So the answer is probably ‘you’, though I was surprised by how often Allan Guthrie cries about his favourite movie, how naked Stuart MacBride is when he does his best writing, and how convincingly Craig Robertson bromanticises his indiscretions with black pudding. The ladies only surprised me when they weren’t surprised to hear any of this.

Did you find your interest in the subject had intensified or diminished after the book was finished?

Given the nature of the subject, do you really think the two should be mutually exclusive? I’ve spent so much time trying to get straight answers from your bipolar band of bards, it seems I’ve contracted your Caledonian Antisyzygy. So yes, my interest in Scottish crime fiction has intensified and diminished, and no, I’d rather not say in whose writing I’ve found and lost interest. What I will say is that William McIlvanney’s Strange Loyalties explains my relationship with Scottish crime fiction in more ways than its title.

The route to publication looked swift; was that linked to public appetite for crime fiction?

Did it? Well, I pitched this collection to my publisher long before it was complete and long before he was a publisher, so it doesn’t feel like we took the swift route. We’re both part of the public, though, so it’s a confident ‘yes’ to the second part of your question.

The tag, TARTAN NOIR, has become much derided; what's your opinion of it?

SPOILER ALERT. (That’s the answer to my PhD.)

And one from left-field: I believe Allan Guthrie conducted his interview in ladies underwear?

Do you want it back? Al told me you mailed that cheeky ensemble to him along with a note, saying: “If you don’t wear this, I’ll start drinking again.”

Nevertheless, he did sign you up for BLASTED HEATH...

He did, yes… Wait, so our wrestling session wasn’t filmed for Macbeth, the Musical? Oh, you little minx! Now I’m definitely sending you the bill for that leotard you ruined.

Will there be more works to follow from you soon?

Do you have a lot more questions? I’m a busy man. The Crime Interviews, Volume Two, should be out by the time I’ve answered your questions. It includes interviews with 10 more Scottish crime writers, ranging from the patron saint of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney, to his legions of disciples, Tony Black, Craig Russell, and Gordon Ferris, all the way to the Marie Magdalene of Scottish letters, Denise Mina.

What about fiction ... fancy a stab?

Is that how you do things on the West Coast? Tempt the innocent to the dark side with a pun? I hope it’s a pun. If it isn’t, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT, YOUR HONOUR.

As for the fiction, it seems I’m more comfortable asking questions than answering them, so perhaps I should stick with the interviewing for now. There’s a third volume in the making, so watch this space.

The Crime Interviews is published by BLASTED HEATH

Len Wanner was born in the Alpine Republic of Bavaria in 1985. When his academic and civil service kept interfering with his reading, he left the country, and when University College Dublin, better known as the All-star Republic of Ireland, gave him a degree at the price of an accent, he left that country, too. Now moving in literary circles, he says he is no longer available as racket stringer, holiday animator, or Lederhosen model, though calls will still be charged at standard network rates. Having found his lady friend in the Almost Republic of Scotland, Mr Wanner is finishing a PhD on crime fiction at the University of Edinburgh, and freelancing as translator, interviewer, and editor of the literary journal, www.thecrimeofitall.com